New York Online Poker Weaseling Its Way to Legalization Through Proposed Budget

Posted on March 25th, 2016 by Jon Pineda
New York online poker John Bonacic

State Senator John Bonacic is optimistic his New York online poker proposal will pass in 2016 as the bill now has two potential ways of being signed into law. (Image: Matthew Hamilton/

New York online poker is trying the road less traveled to obtain legalization in the Empire State. Instead of enduring the more traditional means of becoming law through a standalone piece of legislation, iPoker is being packaged into the latest version of the Senate’s budget plan for 2016-2017.

Senate Bill 6409B is a major comprehensive bill package that lays out the financial groundwork for the state’s operations during the upcoming fiscal year.

Much to the delight of online poker advocates, the dissolving of online poker prohibition in the country’s fourth most populated state is slyly included on page 106 of the 115-page jurisdictive bundle. “Part FFF” of S6409B calls for the regulation of certain interactive poker games including Texas hold’em.

“The Internet has become an integral part of society, and Internet poker a major form of entertainment for many consumers,” the statute reads. “As games of skill, these forms of poker do not fall under the definition of gambling as prohibited by the penal law . . . Regulatory oversight is intended to safeguard the integrity of the games and participants and to ensure accountability and the public trust.”

The iPoker language is lifted directly from S5302B, State Senator John Bonacic’s (R-District 47) most recent attempt to legalize the card game online.

Sight for Sore Eyes

In researching the bill’s language, it’s easy to understand why some politicians have freely admitted to scanning lengthy legislative documents. Others have downright admitted to signing bills without even reading what’s in them.

Then there’s the case of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) who infamously said in 2010, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” Her remarks were in regards to the 955 pages of the Affordable Care Act.

Fortunately for residents in New York hoping to one day be granted the right to play poker online legally, S6409B is no easy read and comes typed in all caps.

Will opponents to gambling expansion spot the poker language and vote to strip it before the chamber votes on forwarding the bill to the Assembly? 

A Win Regardless

Poker Players Alliance (PPA) VP of Player Relations Rich Muny believes if online poker is removed from the final version of the budget package, it still improves the chances of Bonacic’s individual legislation.

“It is very encouraging that online poker is part of the conversation,” Muny stated in a PPA press release. “While it will remain to be seen if we are included in the final budget, missing here would still greatly help the prospects of S5302B as an independent bill.”

The PPA is now calling on residents in New York to tweet at their respective Senate and Assembly representatives to make their voices heard and show that they support the approval online poker.

S6409B currently resides in the Senate Finance Committee where it will need a majority vote before reaching the chamber for consideration. Bonacic is one of the 37 members of said committee, though losing the poker component of the budget bill would more likely happen once it arrives on the Senate floor for debate.

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